disasters, Duggars, narcissists

Josh Duggar is in deep doo doo…

Well… last night– yesterday afternoon Arkansas time– Josh Duggar’s charges became public. He’s been charged with two counts of receiving and possessing child pornography. I suspect that was what the whole Homeland Security raid was about back in November 2019, when the feds busted into Josh’s car dealership office. This was the statement released by the United States Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Arkansas.

I’m not sure if he could get 20 years total or 20 years for each count… I also don’t know if there’s more porn that they found, but they’re only charging him for two counts.

Back in 2015, when Josh’s pervert proclivities first came out, I had some empathy for him. At that time, his crimes against his sisters and the babysitter were reported as having happened in 2002, when Josh was himself still a child. I reasoned that at 14, he was the same age Elizabeth Smart was when she was kidnapped. People were calling Elizabeth Smart a child. I reasoned that in 2002, Josh was also a child, and should get some consideration for that fact. The fact that he was a male and doing something very wrong didn’t change the fact that Josh wasn’t yet an adult.

In 2015, Josh was NOT a child, but when the news about his crimes against his sisters first surfaced, we hadn’t yet heard about his extramarital affairs with other women or his penchant for viewing pornography as he lectured everyone else about family values and Christian decency. He is a liar and a hypocrite, for sure, and he was back then, too… But I still wish that when he was still just a fourteen year old boy, his parents had done something real to help him. He might have still turned out to be who he is today, but at least they could say they gave helping him an honest try. Instead of getting him some therapy from a real counselor and trying to treat his issues, they shaved his head and sent him off to do hard labor with a family friend.

When I was studying for my MSW, I had a professor who worked with sex offenders. He was an interesting guy, who had a lot to say about the subject and his years of experience within it. He explained that the sex drive is an incredibly powerful impulse and extremely difficult to control in some people, much like eating or drinking. That does not excuse sex offenders from being held accountable when they victimize people. However, it may offer some kind of an explanation. A person with a deviant sex drive is not like you or me; they don’t think the same way because they have a true mental illness.

That being said, I think Josh Duggar is a total creep and a hypocrite, and I would not be surprised if he is a full blown narcissist. He’s done bad things that have affected many innocent people in so many negative ways. I suppose the American public is, in a strange way, kind of complicit in the fact that his crimes have escalated, because he was not really held accountable six years ago. In 2015, Josh was outed, and that should have led to REAL treatment for his problem, as well as restitution that involved something other than attending a fundie “treatment” program. However, the Duggar family franchise still continued. Josh was not on any of the shows, but he was still pretty visible, and he and his wife continued to make babies, which were shown off to the world. It was as if they were counting on (see what I did there) the whole thing to blow over. And, honestly, I think it was getting to that point, although I suspect Counting On is on its last legs, anyway.

I also noticed that Jim Boob and Michelle were also sneaking back into the spotlight. I have no doubt that if Josh hadn’t been busted, they would have eventually found their way back to the show as more prominent fixtures. I absolutely hold Mr. and Mrs. Duggar responsible for not taking proper care of their children– especially Josh and the sisters he violated when he was fourteen. They did nothing to protect or support their innocent children, nor did they get appropriate or effective help for their child who hurt them. Seems to me that money and fame was more important to Boob, and Michelle was simply doing what she was trained to do… be “joyfully available” and follow her man. I wonder if Michelle blames Anna for not being a “good enough” helpmeet. If Anna had only been a better wife, Josh wouldn’t have been tempted… but I think we all know that line of thinking is nothing but bullshit.

A lot of people are writing about Anna Duggar, claiming that they don’t care about what happens to her. I think if they care about Josh’s children– and people really should, in my opinion– we should also care about Anna. She’s very likely going to have to deal with raising that brood by herself, especially if she stays married to Josh. It’s going to be very difficult for her, and she has a big job to do, making sure she does her best to see that none of her children with Josh turn out to be like him in any way. I’ve always thought Anna was a decent mother, although one might question a woman who keeps making babies with a known pervert. But Anna was raised and conditioned to be “joyfully available”, and there is no telling what kind of abuse Josh put her through when the cameras weren’t rolling. Add in Jim Boob’s obvious control issues and the way he treats anyone who doesn’t do what he says, and you have a very scary situation for a young woman, especially one with so many children to care for.

On one hand, I’m relieved for Josh’s children that he probably won’t have much access to them. On the other hand, I also know that it’s hard to see your loved one– especially a parent– being accused of very serious crimes and locked up. Josh’s children are totally innocent, but they are probably going to have to live with this infamy for the rest of their lives. It’s going to affect everything. I imagine when they get older, wanting to find a mate or possibly a job. There will be people who won’t want to associate with them because of who their father is and what he’s done… and allegedly done.

In any case, my sympathies are definitely with Josh’s children. I do have some empathy for Anna, too. She’s got a tough and scary road ahead of her, especially given that she’s pregnant again. I hope this will be the last baby she makes with Josh. And I hope people in her family will show her kindness and mercy, and help her… because I can already see that a lot of people in the public at large have no regard for her at all. I am sure that having been married to a narcissistic type like Josh, she’s used to people not caring or being kind. Remember, Josh famously took a nap when she was laboring at home, birthing one of the older kids. But it’s still a hard way to live, and I think that someone so obviously victimized by a notorious abuser should rate more understanding.

One thing that Bill and I have learned is that these kinds of problems don’t tend to go away when they are ignored. It’s hard to face the truth and all of the unpleasantness that can come with a situation like this. Doing the right thing is difficult and scary. However, if you don’t nip it in the bud with some very decisive and effective actions, it will get worse and more innocent people will be harmed. Eventually, you will end up with a much bigger problem than what you started with.

Incidentally, a Facebook user named Thriving Forward wrote and shared a very informative post about why Anna has stayed married to Josh and continued to have babies. Thriving Forward is herself a survivor and escapee of the fundie cult Advanced Training Institute (ATI), founded by Bill Gothard. ATI is the fundie Christian belief system the Duggars follow. The post is public, and you can find it by clicking here.

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disasters, divorce, Ex, LDS, narcissists, religion

“Time and all eternity…” (snicker)

A few years ago, I wrote a post on the Blogspot incarnation of The Overeducated Housewife entitled “The Ex is Much Like Wile E. Coyote”. I was inspired to write that post as I realized that a lot of Ex’s big plans eventually fall apart, much like they always did for Wile E. Coyote on the Road Runner cartoons. She has a way of coming up with really big ideas, but somehow, they almost always eventually lead to failure, if not outright disaster. Unfortunately, Ex is great at convincing people, so a lot of innocent folks have been harmed by her big ideas.

I should just call Ex Wile E. Coyote. She has much in common with him.

When I wrote that post, back in the fall of 2018, I was under a lot of stress. Most of it had nothing to do with Ex. However, because Ex has caused me and a lot of my loved ones considerable pain over the years, I couldn’t help but engage in a bit of snark. That post attracted a comment from a person calling themselves “Wondering Why”, who took exception to my habit of “trashing” Bill’s ex wife. This was the comment left for me by “Wondering Why”:

I have to wonder why you see the need to publicly trash your husband’s ex, repeatedly, on your personal blog. Why do you air such personal business? There is so much negativity coming from you in many posts, and SO much TMI info. So much of it is simply inappropriate. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean you need to write it and then publish it. Write it to get out your angst, but seriously, let it go already. You come off as snotty, petty and bitter.

I think I know who this person was. As I have mentioned before, I carefully watch who visits my blog. I could see that this person had visited several times and had even engaged me in chat once or twice. She has since moved to Germany and is a member of a group I run. She once told me that she’s a “first wife”, and I think she assumes Bill’s ex wife is a normal and “nice” person, and that I’m just a mean, bitter, second wife who is picking on her. I can see why she thinks that, based on only reading a few posts.

However, my negative opinions about Ex didn’t form in a vacuum. They are quite well justified, and venting about them helps me maintain my peace in an insane situation. The truth is, Ex does a lot of destructive things that complicate life for many innocents. Her crazymaking has a tendency to make people myopic– they can’t see the big picture and get stuck in her lunacy. It’s painful and distressing to watch if you’re a decent person, which Bill and I are.

Believe me, nothing would have made me happier than if Bill’s ex and I could get along and cooperate for the sake of family. She’s made that impossible, and now that younger daughter is older and talking to Bill, we’ve learned that this is how she treats most people who get close to her. She somehow convinces the most vulnerable people in her life that they can’t live without her, even as she fucks up their lives.

I have noticed that “Wondering Why” now acts like she didn’t leave that comment, and I have never confronted her about it. She’s friendly to me in the group I run. However, I did respond to her comment on the blog itself, as did a number of regular readers who know the backstory about Bill and his ex wife. In fact, that comment spawned several posts, because I was irritated by the hypocrisy and tone of it. This is a personal blog. It’s not always going to be light and breezy reading. If that’s what you want, get a subscription to Reader’s Digest.

Anyway… this post is not so much about a random commenter’s uninformed opinions about my character and posting habits regarding Ex, as it is about Ex’s harebrained schemes that always seem to backfire. Ex does a lot of really impulsive and ultimately stupid things, a lot of which have lasting and very negative consequences. It would be easy to ignore her dumb decisions if they only affected her, but alas… they affect a whole lot of people, as I recently mentioned in my post, Ripple eff-Ex Volume 2. Case, in point, Ex’s foolish decision to convert to Mormonism.

Back in 1997, Bill and his ex wife were living in Arkansas. Bill had temporarily left active duty and, despite having an international relations degree from American University, he was working swing and third shifts in a factory. They were broke, and Bill was constantly working to try to keep things running. Meanwhile, Ex was doing everything she could to ruin their finances and fuck everything up.

During that time, Ex, who also had a friend who was LDS, noticed a “beautiful” family at a restaurant. Or, at least this is the story I’ve heard… I’m not sure if this really happened, or it’s just a fable that sounds good. Ex supposedly noticed how well-behaved, happy, and peaceful the family appeared to be. They said grace before eating, and looked like they all got along so well. She allegedly complimented them on how nice they looked and they told her they were Mormons. I’m not sure if I believe this is exactly how it happened, but like I said, it sounds good. The upshot is, Ex unilaterally decided that she wanted the family to convert to Mormonism.

Bill was desperate to save his marriage, and he knew that Ex was going to do what she wanted regardless. He agreed to join the church. So Ex contacted the LDS church, who sent missionaries. I’m sure they were only too delighted to have a golden contact family– that is, a family who came to them willingly for church membership, rather than having to be convinced to join. Even though Bill loves coffee and booze, he willingly gave them up to make Ex happy. He jumped through all the hoops and got “endowed”, meaning he became “temple worthy” and was deemed good enough to wear the special undergarments that supposedly grant super spiritual powers. Ex also became temple worthy, and the two of them went through a special religious ordinance called “sealing”.

I have written about LDS sealing before, especially in my old blog. It’s a very big deal to LDS church members. The ordinance takes place in a temple, which only the most devout church members can enter. They even have cards with bar codes on them that indicate whether or not a person is “temple worthy”. The members have to answer questions before the cards are granted, and they have to keep them up-to-date.

So, Bill and Ex were sealed “for time and all eternity”. Aw… isn’t that romantic? I’m sure when they got sealed, they were happy to know that their family would be preserved forever, even in the afterlife. During the ceremony, Bill and Ex also got special new Mormon names. Ex doesn’t know Bill’s name, because she’s not cleared to know it. But Bill knows Ex’s name… which is actually the same name all of the women who got sealed on that day at that temple were given. Same as the men. Every day, a new name from a special list is chosen, and everyone who goes through the temple on that day gets the male or female “name of the day”. Because Bill and Ex had two daughters together, as well as Ex’s son from her first marriage, who, at the time, was using Bill’s surname and being raised as if he was Bill’s son, the children were also sealed to Bill– “for time and all eternity”.

Sealing, according to the Mormon tradition, technically means that after we’re all dead, Bill and Ex will still be married. This is where/things get a bit complicated. Mormons take sealing very seriously; however, the rules seem to vary or change depending on who a person is and who they know. I have heard a number of different things about what happens when a couple divorces and/or one person resigns their church membership. It mostly seems to depend on who’s involved with the temple divorce and who’s in charge of the church.

There was a woman who used to post frequently on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard. She had an abusive ex husband whom she married when she was very young. She was “sealed” to him, because that’s what good and faithful Mormons do. But their marriage fell apart because he repeatedly assaulted her. She tried to get a temple divorce from her ex husband. This is a separate thing from a legal divorce– it’s something the LDS church does for women.

A temple worthy Mormon man is allowed to be “sealed” to more than one woman. All he has to do is get a sealing clearance indicating that he and the next wife are both worthy. But for women, it can be a hell of a lot more complicated, because women can only be “sealed” to one man, and getting unsealed, while technically possible, can be extremely difficult if one doesn’t have the right connections. Well, the lady on RfM has repeatedly written that even though she’s tried for over 20 years to get the “temple divorce”, the church would never do it. You can read more about this here. She also wrote that her hairdresser, who is “well connected”, got her “cancellation of sealing” in just a few weeks.

Take Marie Osmond, for instance. In 1982, she married and was “sealed” to Stephen Craig, who was a basketball player at Brigham Young University. They have a son together, but split up after only a few years of marriage. Marie later married Brian Blosil and, I can greatly assume, was granted a “temple divorce” so that they could be sealed in the temple. Marie went on to have two more bio children with Brian, and adopted five others. All of those children would have, presumably, been sealed to Brian Blosil. Marie later divorced Brian and remarried Stephen Craig. I’m sure that she and Stephen were resealed, simply because of who she is. For rank and file people, though, this is not such an easy thing to accomplish.

Bill officially resigned from the LDS church in 2006. When he resigned, he got a letter from the church letting him know that his name was removed from the church’s rolls and all blessings and so forth had been revoked. They also sent a cute little pamphlet inviting him to come back to church and get over being “offended”.

One would think that resigning from the church really would mean that he and Ex were automatically temple divorced, right? Not so fast. Again, it seems to depend on who you are and who you know– and probably how much money you give to the church.

Bill does not have any issue with his ex wife being sealed to someone else. In fact, he’d welcome it. When he resigned from the church, Bill even put in his letter that he supported allowing Ex to be sealed to her current husband, #3, who joined the church at Ex’s behest. But we also know that even if a former spouse has resigned from the church, church officials will send a letter to the former spouse if the actively LDS ex spouse wishes to be sealed to someone else. The letter invites the ex spouse to provide any reasons why his or her LDS active ex spouse should not be allowed to get re-sealed. Of course, any opinions given and the details provided aren’t an instant veto. Church officials make the final decision, although they might take into consideration any info they get from the Exes who respond to their queries. It’s just one more way they can get dirt on their members.

Some years back, when Bill and Ex were still squabbling over her decision to cut the children off from Bill (which really shouldn’t have surprised him in the least), Ex mentioned that she was going to try to get their sealing cancelled, so she and #3 could be sealed for “time and all eternity”. I remember early in our marriage, that always bothered me a little bit… because while I’ve always believed sealings are a bunch of hooey, I didn’t like the idea of Ex thinking she still had a hold on Bill. Now, of course, I don’t give a flying fuck what she thinks. I know for a fact that Bill won’t be uttering Ex’s secret name in the Terrestrial or Telestial Kingdoms (cuz I know neither of them are Celestial Kingdom material). But… I also know that Ex never managed to get that temple divorce. I always figured that she never tried very hard, probably because being sealed to Bill is a good thing to throw in #3’s face when she thinks he needs to be brought down a peg. You can’t tell me that Ex never compares #3 to Bill… because that’s what she does to everyone. She is a pro triangulator, and will happily stoop to whatever low depths she can sink to in order to keep people in her sphere compliant with her goals and wishes.

Well… recently, it came to light that Ex had, in fact, tried to get that temple divorce. Younger daughter explained that she and #3 had tried and failed to get permission to be sealed, and they appealed all the way to the First Presidency of the church. That’s about as high as it gets, folks. But the church refused to give her the sealing cancellation for a couple of reasons. First– either one or both of them were not “temple worthy”, meaning they weren’t following all of the rules and paying the necessary tithes to get into the temple. Second– Bill could always decide to rejoin the church, at which point, all of his “blessings” would be reinstated. And younger daughter added that Ex was told that even if the church did allow Ex and #3 to be sealed, Bill’s children and ex stepson would NOT be sealed to #3. Only their two children together would be sealed to #3. Evidently, because of that, Ex stopped trying to get the temple divorce. Obviously, being sealed to #3 was less important than having another thorn to stick in Bill’s side over their divorce. And if she couldn’t steal Bill’s daughters in the afterlife, what good was jumping through all the hoops? I doubt she cares much about #3, anyway.

The best part of this story? It turns out that younger daughter did not want to be #3’s daughter for time and all eternity. Once the temple divorce idea was finally put to bed, she said, “So that means I’m going to stay sealed to my dad? Good!” Of course, she was not speaking to Bill at that time. But it does his heart good to know that younger daughter never forgot him, as Ex had claimed she had.

So… like I said, Ex is much like Wile E. Coyote. She comes up with brilliant plans that she doesn’t think through completely, and they very often end up turning to shit. The decision to joint the LDS church, which I’m sure was a way of getting Bill to be more like her fantasy ideal of a good husband and maintain control over the children, has blown up in her face many times. In fact, the LDS church even served as a way for younger daughter to escape her mother’s clutches. Church members, noting the way Ex is, helped younger daughter out immeasurably when she needed to get away from her mom. And they have tried to help older daughter, too. Unfortunately, older daughter remains stuck… at least for the time being.

I always have a lot of empathy for people who post on RfM about the whole “temple divorce/sealing” issue. I know that subject causes pain, particularly if one is a believer in the church’s teachings. But even if one is not a believer, it’s kind of hurtful to think of your spouse being “sealed” to someone else, even if it’s a bunch of religious mind fuckery. On my original blog, I posted about this subject when, back in 2012, someone on RfM posted about how he was sealed to his first wife and his second wife was upset about it. Here’s what he wrote:

I am in a really difficult situation and would really love to hear from others on my problem. I was raised in the mormon church. I went every Sunday. As a kid, I held all of the leadership roles one could hold. I didn’t go on a mission because my “testimony” just wasn’t there. I rarely expressed my thoughts about the church because it felt so fake. I got married instead at the young age of 19. We had a civil marriage and got “sealed” in the SL temple exactly one year later, in June. Our first child was conceived that same month and born 9 months later. We had another one 18 months after that. Life seemed to just roll along. I just did what I was told. Finally, after 22 years of marriage, I found a reason to take a job in another city and so I could commute (and get out of the situation as much as I could). Little did I know that the end of my marriage came after only a year or so of commuting (BTW, we got pregnant again, unplanned, and #3 child was born just before I started the new job). After one year of commuting, I met someone and fell in love. She was non-mormon and didn’t really know much about the religion. We moved in together and I told my wife I wanted a divorce. She was very angry at first but then we finally ended the marriage.

Now for the problem:

My second wife and I have been married now for almost 8 years. We live in a different city than my kids (750 mi away) but we get to see them fairly often. My 10 yo girl spends time with us and loves her step mom. My ex (still single but has a BF) and I get along, no real problems at all. My older girls, now married and have small babies of their own, are warming up to us again. The problem is that my wife wants me to divorce my ex in the mormon church. She is adamant about it and says that our marriage will not be complete until I do this. We don’t practice the religion. Heck, I met with a SP 9 yrs ago when we were living together (and before my divorce was final) and told him everything. I don’t even know if I’m a member of the church anymore, and I really don’t care. I have two main concerns: 1. Opening this “can of worms” will cause a huge issue between my ex-wife and I where we have things working just fine right now. I don’t want to create problems that will be costly down the road due to our 10 yo. 2. My kids are STRONG believers of mormonism. If I do this, they will surely find out, and everything we have worked for will be ruined as far as my relationship with the older kids is concerned. If I lost my relationship with my older kids (and their kids), I would hold my wife accountable and would never be able to forgive her. I’m in a tough spot. Would love to hear from anyone who has been in this or a similar situation, or you just have thoughts about it. Also, I have no feelings for my ex wife. My wife sometimes thinks that I still have feelings for her. I don’t. We are friends to the extent that she is the mother of my children, and I want to just keep it that way. We only communicate when it comes to the 10yo. Thx.

My heart went out to this man and his second wife, so I left this response for them (remember this was circa 2012– things have changed since then):

I empathize with your current wife. My husband and his ex were sealed after they converted. Unlike you and your ex, my husband and his ex do not get along. His kids are very estranged and TBM and he hasn’t talked to them in 7 years. She has remarried, but as far as I know, the sealing she has with my husband is still intact (i.e.; we haven’t gotten anything from the church about a sealing cancellation, though my husband did resign a few years ago). For the first few years of our marriage, it did kind of bother me, because I figured the ex was still thinking she had a claim to him… She had told my husband that she had never wanted the divorce and didn’t want to be married to her third husband. I didn’t think he’d ever go back to her, but that sealing thing was just stuck in my craw.

But oddly enough, as the years went by and the ex did some truly mean and hateful things to destroy my husband’s relations with his kids, I started to care a lot less about it. The LDS church is a bunch of horseshit anyway. Besides, my husband has made it very plain to me that he doesn’t have any loving feelings for his ex-wife. That was visibly clear one morning when I accidentally happened to mention her name in the bedroom when we were about to have sex. He immediately lost his hard on. After that, I knew she was absolutely no threat and their “temple marriage/sealing” meant absolutely NOTHING to him. And that’s really all that matters to me. As long as he doesn’t have any thoughts of reconnecting with her, I’m cool. Of course, in the years since that bedroom incident, it’s been made even clearer to me that he would never get back with her. He hasn’t spoken to her in over five years.

Maybe your wife needs to spend some time among us here in exMormonland… It really is a meaningless thing if you don’t believe in the mumbo jumbo. It sounds to me like your wife just needs to know in no uncertain terms that the fact that you have kids with your ex wife doesn’t mean that you still have romantic feelings for her. I think it’s great that you two can be civil though. Believe me, I wish that was how it could have been with my husband and his ex. Total estrangement from his daughters has been very difficult for him.

He responded:

Thx specifically for your reply. I’m sorry to hear about the relationship your husband has with his kids. That is very sad to me, and I hope things turn out for the both of you the way you want them to. I really appreciate your insight to this whole mess. It has helped a lot.

And my reply:

You’re welcome.

I’m sorry my husband has a bad relationship with his kids, too. But that has a lot less to do with Mormonism than it does with the fact that his ex wife is just unreasonable and crazy. She did the same thing to her first husband and the son they had together and will likely do it again when she and her third husband split. And I’m pretty certain they will split eventually, though she may prove me wrong.

I hope my husband’s daughters someday figure out what they’ve thrown away and come to their senses. But even if they don’t, I hope they find peace. My husband and I are very happy and though it’s been hard for him not to have contact with his daughters, he knows that they’re young women who have to find their own way.

I wish you luck with your situation. It sounds like you’re fortunate enough to have a reasonable ex wife and a good relationship with your kids. That’s a blessing. Your wife probably just needs to be educated about Mormonism. Once I learned about it, it really helped me get over the sealing lunacy.

Wile E. Coyote, I tell you… Ex has a special gift for fucking things up… especially for herself! And friends, this is just the tip of the iceberg, which is why I continue to occasionally “trash” my husband’s ex wife on my blog. She is certifiably nuts, and she has hurt a whole lot of people… and continues to do so. Happily, she can no longer hurt Bill or me. And now that younger daughter is older and has gotten out of the toxic fog, she’s well on her way to being “vaccinated” against Ex’s fuckery, too. It’s bad enough when your mom is nuts… but adding ridiculous religious bullshit to life, which is already complicated and tough enough, really makes things harder than they need to be. That’s very unfortunate, as #3 once said to Bill when he said he wouldn’t be spending Christmas with him and his ex wife in my father-in-law’s home but, instead, would be coming home to his wife. I may not be “sealed” to Bill, but I love him dearly and I’ve never abused him. Living with that “for time” has got to be better than being shackled to an abuser “for time and all eternity”.

I guess when we’re all dead, Ex might be wandering around listening for Bill to call out for “Leah”… and she might be waiting a long time for a man to pull her through the veil. 😉 Of course, since Bill turned his back on the “one true church”, maybe we’ll be in Outer Darkness. I suspect that will be a more interesting place than Mormon Heaven is, anyway…

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disasters, expressions

Choosing the harder right over the easier wrong…

As a new week begins here in the land of perpetual lockdowns, my mind is on a heartbreaking opinion piece I just read in The Washington Post. A public health nurse practitioner, writer, and former Army Captain named Jackie Munn wrote about how her parents both contracted COVID-19 a few months ago. Munn’s father, a 28 year Army veteran, had tried to care for his ailing wife, Julie Anne Oeser, while he was himself ill. Unfortunately, Ms. Oeser’s condition deteriorated and she had to go to the hospital. She had initially resisted going, fearing that she wouldn’t come home. Sadly, she was right. On January 26, 2021, as many people were getting their first COVID-19 vaccinations, Julie Anne Oeser died. Her family stood around her bedside. She had spent 11 days in the intensive care unit, battling the novel coronavirus.

Jackie Munn is understandably very angry that she’s lost her mother, who was 62 years old and had “few preexisting conditions.” She writes that her family had “done its part” to fight COVID-19. Munn’s sisters, Jess and Jenn, are also in healthcare. Jenn works as an emergency room nurse in a hospital east of Los Angeles, California. Jess is a medical laboratory scientist at a Kansas City area hospital. Their parents had taken the pandemic seriously and followed all precautions, to include social distancing, hand hygiene, and wearing face masks. Both planned to be vaccinated, although Ms. Oeser died before she was able to take that step.

Jackie Munn writes, “…as a West Point graduate and combat veteran, I was taught that good leaders chose the harder right over the easier wrong.” She acknowledges that her father and older sister, both veterans like her, and been trained to do things that might be unpleasant or uncomfortable, but serve the common good. And she’s understandably pissed off that so many Americans, many of whom were egged on by our former leader, Trump, have decided not to “do their part” to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Birx speaks about the vaccines now available.

Munn blames Trump, of course, as well as Dr. Deborah Birx, who was herself an Army colonel and had been part of the COVID-19 task force in the Trump administration. She served as the COVID-19 Response Coordinator for Trump’s White House. Birx was recently in the news admitting that many COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented if people had taken the virus more seriously and Trump had been a more responsible leader. I remember watching Deborah Birx on video, looking visibly uncomfortable as Trump spoke about COVID-19. She knew the truth, but unlike her colleague, Dr. Anthony Fauci, she did not feel that she could say it out loud. She’s said that she had many “uncomfortable” discussions with Trump. My guess is that he threatened her.

She didn’t feel empowered to speak out during Trump’s reign. She says she should have been more outspoken.
These folks felt “muzzled” by Trump. Dr. Birx says that after the first 100,000 deaths, the subsequent carnage wrought by the virus could have been prevented.

Although I haven’t yet been personally affected by COVID-19, my heart goes out to Jackie Munn and the rest of her family. And yet, I also have some empathy for Dr. Birx. It’s easy for people to say she should have done more. They aren’t in the position she was in, and they weren’t directly dealing with a man like Trump, threatening, bullying, and browbeating them into doing his bidding. I can’t help but realize that Trump is a malignant narcissist, and if you’ve never had to deal with such a person, you have no idea how difficult it is not to bend to their will. They can be extremely convincing, even if they aren’t the U.S. POTUS… and when they are someone as powerful as Trump was, with many minions ready to carry out his wishes, it seems like an impossible situation to be in.

I don’t blame Dr. Birx for deciding to retire. I think it’s a shame that all of the legitimately good work she’s done over the course of her career, to include work in mitigating the spread of HIV/AIDS, is going to be tarnished by her unfortunate connection with Trump. I think she was in a no win situation. I can see why it was so hard for her to “choose the harder right over the easier wrong,” even if doing so might have saved lives.

Naturally, I had to read the comments on Jackie Munn’s piece. It was a lot of the same polarized crap we’ve been reading for over a year now. Many people– I’d say maybe 85%– had nothing but condolences and commiseration to add to Munn’s piece. It really is a sad read, and it resonates with a lot of people. A few other people were obviously ignorant pro-Trump trolls, who are clearly belligerent and selfish. But I also noticed a few people whom I thought made sense being called “trolls” or angrily shouted down by the masses. Here are a couple of examples:

Those of you who “know” me, know that I’m not a fan of group think or echo chamber comments. So many people seem to want to pat themselves on the backs for doing the “right” thing, for the good of everyone else. I’ve seen so many self-congratulatory and outright pious comments from people who claim they have done everything correctly and figuratively spit on everyone they assume isn’t toeing the line created by the likes of Dr. Fauci. Don’t get me wrong. I admire Dr. Fauci’s work, and I think he’s a very smart man who knows what he’s talking about. He definitely knows a hell of a lot more than the average Internet user. I also agree that people should do their parts to control the spread of the virus. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more rational discussion, rather than chastising and insulting perfect strangers online.

I had to quit reading the comments when I realized I’d started rooting for the people who were gamely taking on all of the arrogant lecturing and blaming done by those who are all about everyone being forced to do the “right” things. I am not a fan of forcing people to do right, especially when people take a black and white, zero tolerance view. There are always situations that require exceptions to the rules, and the people who require exceptions should have a chance to be heard without being screamed down by others. I don’t like to be the devil’s advocate myself, because I find dealing with the deluge of irritating comments from graduates of the Google School of Public Health too tiresome and ultimately pointless. But I do secretly cheer on those who take on these folks. Most of us can Google. Not all of us are going to come to the same conclusions. That should be okay. People should be allowed to share their thoughts and opinions if they want to, and the ones who make some sense should have their thoughts respectfully considered, even if their conclusions are eventually rejected.

I’m getting especially “prickly” when I see some all knower write something like “You do know that…” or “Pretty sure that…” or “And your medical/public health degree is from…” or “What about seatbelts and helmets…” I don’t think the COVID-19 situation is akin to the other safety measures enforced by law. Ms. Munn is obviously gutted that her mother has died. I can’t blame her for that. I don’t blame her for trying to place responsibility on other people, either. It’s only natural. But even if everyone was wearing a mask and social distancing, there’s a chance her mother still would have gotten sick. There may have been far less of chance, but the chance still existed.

Not everyone is going to get onboard with the new rules. Some people never will, no matter what we do. There’s a good chance those people won’t spread COVID-19, despite breaking the rules. On the other hand there’s a good chance they will. We don’t know who passed the virus to Jackie Munn’s mom, but we do know that it’s an extremely contagious bug, and even if someone does everything right, as Ms. Munn’s mom presumably did, people are still going to get sick, and some people are still going to die. Hopefully, with the advent of the new vaccines, those numbers will drop significantly.

I think it’s useless to point the finger at random people who aren’t doing what they’re told. Those people have their reasons for not cooperating. Maybe you and I think their reasons are stupid, but they obviously think they’re right. And unless we stop and talk to them and actually listen respectfully to what they have to say, they probably won’t cooperate, even if they’re dead wrong. How many random strangers are going to change their habits just because someone insulted them and left an angry comment? On the other hand, if we engage with them from a place of respect and decency, maybe we can come to a meeting of the minds. Maybe then, more people will “choose the harder right over the easier wrong.”

A few days ago, I got into a minor scuffle with some woman from Australia. Well, actually, she tried to start a scuffle with me. I ignored her, which probably pissed her off. Anyway, what happened was, I had read an article about a type of dermatitis that is being caused by mask wearing. Many people are getting perioral dermatitis and mistaking it for acne. The condition doesn’t clear up when they use acne remedies, and they have painful reactions, as their sensitive skin is abraded by constantly wearing the masks.

A woman posted that she was dealing with this condition herself. That’s when Tiffany from Australia responded that she’s owned a medical practice for twenty years, has to wear masks, and just sucks it up and drives on. The original poster came back and reiterated that the dermatitis was actually very painful. Tiffany still had no empathy for her. She wrote that she has the dermatitis too, but she still does her part and masks up. Here’s a cookie, Tiffany.

Enjoy.

I was a bit disgusted by Tiffany’s lack of regard for this woman and her valid complaint. So I wrote, “You made a choice to go into healthcare, where masks are required. Most of the rest of us didn’t. It’s not nice to discount other people’s legitimate problems.” Several people agreed with me, and I got quite a few likes for that comment… not that I needed the likes. They just told me that I wasn’t the only one who found Tiffany’s “suck it up and drive on” attitude annoying.

Next thing I knew, I got a message that Tiffany wanted to “connect” with me. I discovered her message maybe an hour or so after that exchange. I had a feeling she was going to blast me privately. I didn’t read her whole message, but saw enough of it to know that she felt I had no right to call her out for her virtue signaling and she was telling me off in my PMs. The end of her message was, “Cat got your tongue?”

If had responded, I might have said, “I didn’t even realize you had messaged me until I saw my phone. I don’t get those notifications on an iPad. Moreover, your decision to PM me doesn’t require me to answer you. If you want to address me, you can do it publicly and respectfully. Otherwise, I have nothing more to say to you.” What I really would have liked to have said to her, and anyone else who PMs me uninvited and is abusive is, “We don’t know each other, so piss off!” In the end, I chose to ignore her completely, which probably left her feeling like the wind was let out of her sails.

I wonder how many people would like to get in on the discussion and have valid perspectives to add, but choose not to because of bullies like Tiffany who want to call them “babies” or tell them to get over themselves. Likewise, while I completely understand Jackie Munn’s anger, frustration, and outrage that she lost her mother at age 62, I don’t think issuing a blanket blame toward anyone who isn’t doing what she thinks they should be doing is productive. Would she be just as angry if her mom had gotten the flu and died? How about if her mom had had an accident? Would she have felt better if many more people were wearing masks and her mom still died of COVID-19? It’s possible that could have happened, too. The bottom line is, the situation Jackie Munn is in is terrible, and it seems unfair. But we’re in a pandemic, and people are going to die, just as they die in wars and other catastrophes. It doesn’t mean the situation isn’t horrible and tragic– but unfortunately, blaming the world for her mom’s death isn’t going to bring her back from the dead.

Now… to wrap this up and get on with my day…

A few days ago, I wrote a protected post about a situation we’re in right now. It’s going to require some tough choices that may make things temporarily worse before they’re better. Or, they could make things permanently worse. And yet, Bill and I both know that it’s the right thing to do, and it’s something we should have done a long time ago. I was thinking of that situation when I read Jackie Munn’s words– the lesson she learned at West Point– “choosing the harder right over the easier wrong.” It’s so easy to turn a blind eye and let people get away with doing bad things. But in the long run, it can cost dearly.

I’m truly sorry about Jackie Munn’s loss. I absolutely appreciate all she and her sisters have done to fight COVID-19. I’m going to continue doing whatever I can to stop the spread. I stay home about 90% of the time and, on the very rare occasions when I do go places, I follow the rules. But unfortunately, I also know that the virus is very contagious, and some people can and will do everything right and still get COVID-19. It’s not necessarily anyone else’s fault when this happens, and I don’t think it’s helpful to blame others. It’s just a sad fact that until more people are fully vaccinated, people are going to get very sick, and some will die.

Yes, we should do all we can to reduce the numbers and cooperate for the common good. But there will be casualties regardless, and there will be heartbroken people who will suffer tremendous losses, no matter what they do. I also realize that I may very well be among those who will lose, as Bill and I anxiously await the vaccine ourselves. May God help us all.

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disasters, mental health, music, narcissists

Jenna Ryan in the Land of Delusion…

A song that was popular during my high school days. I think it kind of fits– replace “confusion” with “delusion”.

Remember Jenna Ryan? For a few weeks in January and February, she was in the news a lot, running her mouth about storming the Capitol on January 6th, the day thousands of unhinged and delusional Trump supporters tried to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election results in Joe Biden’s favor. On that bitter, cloudy, bleak day, Ms. Ryan, dressed in a cutesy American flag scarf she said she’d bought at a kiosk, promoted herself as a real estate agent and bragged about her part in the whole failed “#StoptheSteal” campaign.

A news item about Jenna Ryan when the news was fresh.

I wrote a couple of times about Ms. Ryan when her story was new news. I have to admit, she’s a very compelling character. She definitely talks a good game, doesn’t she? If you watch the above clip, you can hear her trying to minimize her part in the rioting, even though there were photos and videos of her participating in the mayhem with gusto. From boarding a private jet and bragging about that to claiming that the day of the insurrection was “the best day of [her] life”, it’s clear that she’s in the thick of this mess. And since “her president” didn’t give her the pardon she requested, she is now facing several federal charges that, if she’s found guilty, could land her in prison.

Listen to her say that she thought this was just a “protest”, then see her on video saying she doesn’t care that someone got “shot in the face”.

She didn’t think she would be charged… and now she feels “very persecuted”. In case you missed it— there is a very real chance she could be going to prison. But just a few months after the insurrection, Ms. Ryan thinks she will not end up behind bars. Why? Apparently, because she’s a “pretty” white woman with blonde hair and nice teeth. When a Twitter user named Tyson Stuart commented on the fact that Ryan is in deep legal doo doo, she responded:

I think 50 year old Jenna might want to consider that she may soon need her roots touched up and her teeth capped. Jail is a very real possibility for her.

Twelve hours ago at this writing, Ryan shared an article from Politico with the headline “Many Capitol rioters unlikely to serve jail time”. She commented:

This could be true for a lot of people… but will it be true in HER case?

If I were Jenna Ryan, I would not be so bold as to state that I definitely wasn’t going to be going to jail. Especially when I’ve made a lot of false statements that were later proven to be false due to the “miracles” of video and screenshots. She was caught on video bragging about what she was doing, which was definitely a violation of federal law and can carry jail time.

I think, as a major cheerleader for the insurrection, Jenna Ryan probably deserves some jail time, although she’s not as guilty as the people who were actually violent and/or hurt or killed people and caused property damage. I’ve not seen evidence that Jenna Ryan was particularly violent (other than screaming on camera that her fellow supporters are armed and dangerous). She’s just extremely delusional and obnoxious, as far as I can tell. Still, she obviously hasn’t learned to keep quiet, and I think that will hurt her in the long run. Her “white privilege” statement doesn’t help her cause, either.

I’m not a psychiatrist, nor do I play one on TV. I’ve also never met Ms. Ryan. However, having been around a lot of character disordered, high-conflict personalities, I suspect that she has some pathology. She claims she doesn’t need money, but then launches a GoFundMe campaign, which was later taken down. She encourages people to give to her cause, not because she’s in dire need of money to pay her lawyer(s), but because the donators will be “blessed”. Like– she’s doing them a favor by giving them the chance to donate to her cause… a cause that is illegal and led to people dying and major property damage, not to mention the psychological damage to everyone who was traumatized by that day. She’s been taking Paula White lessons.

She claims to have “seen the light” and whines about having fallen for a scam, but then overconfidently tweets that she won’t be doing any time in jail because she has “blonde hair, white skin, and a great job”. Is she really setting the real estate world on fire down in Texas? I know she’s had some major financial problems in the past— debts and tax problems that led to a lien on her house. But one quality that makes a great salesperson is that “fake it until you make it” attitude and using other people’s money. I’m sure there are some people out there who might support her cause. She’s kind of cute for her age, and there are plenty of deluded Trumpers lurking out there in the shadows who think what happened on January 6th was A-OK. But I think a lot more of us dwell in the glorious sunlight of reality. Despite her confidence and “sass” on Twitter, Jenna Ryan is truly in deep shit. And she, alone, put herself there.

At least in January, Jenna was smart enough to see that prison was a reality for her:

“I listened to my president. He told me to go to the Capitol. I’m facing a prison sentence…”

Yes, you are, Jenna. You are not a victim, either. You got on that private plane of your own free will, unmolested, in part because you are a white woman with blonde hair and pretty teeth. You were not a spectator. You bragged about “marching” to the Capitol and stated, on camera, that you didn’t care if someone got shot in the face. You even said you didn’t care if YOU got shot. And you sipped white wine while you walked around our nation’s capital city, shrieking about how your desires to keep Trump in office were more important than everyone else’s rights to a newly elected (and much more competent) leader chosen in a free and fair election. Here you are on Twitter screaming like you’re at a fucking high school pep rally…

“You’re messing with the WRONG people!!!! … We are ARMED and DANGEROUS!” You said it, Jenna. It’s right here on video!

I would love to know what events from her past made Jenna Ryan into the obviously delusional person she is today. It’s been my experience that people like Jenna have a lot of pain in their histories. People who can deny reality so blatantly and try to pass themselves as people they’re not have usually have had reasons to develop that ability. I suspect some person or people probably hurt Jenna, and she’s learned to survive the pain by being completely out of touch with reality. And because she believes her own lies, other people are willing to believe her. However, judging by the comments she’s getting on Twitter, it appears that she’s her own worst enemy and more people are ready to see her cuffed and stuffed than not.

Jenna Ryan may very well not go to prison… and maybe some nice sugar daddy will come along and give her life a happy ending. Stranger things have happened. Look what’s happened in my life. But, I think it’s much more likely that Jenna will have a reckoning soon. Even if she doesn’t get any jail time, there will be a heavy price for her to pay. She can deny it all she wants, but the truth always comes out in the end. She’s very desperate to show everyone who she is– or, at least the fake version. But pictures and videos don’t lie. She’s clearly guilty as hell. Hopefully, she will get exactly what she so richly deserves.

“Land of Confusion” lyrics… (I think it’s genius… a perfect song about the state of our world today. The boys from Genesis were definitely on to something back in the 1980s. Plus, it still sounds good!)

I must have dreamed a thousand dreams
Been haunted by a million screams
But I can hear the marching feet
They’re moving into the street

Now, did you read the news today?
They say the danger has gone away
But I can see the fire’s still alight
They’re burning into the night

There’s too many men, too many people
Making too many problems
And there’s not much love to go around
Can’t you see this is the land of confusion?

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make it a place worth living in

Oh, Superman, where are you now?
When every thing’s gone wrong somehow?
Men of steel, these men of power
I’m losing control by the hour

This is the time, this is the place
So we look for the future
But there’s not much love to go around
Tell me why this is the land of confusion

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make it a place worth living in

I remember long ago
When the sun was shining
And all the stars were bright all through the night
In the wake up this madness, as I held you tight
So long ago

I won’t be coming home tonight
My generation will put it right
We’re not just making promises
That we know we’ll never keep

There’s too many men, too many people
Making too many problems
And there’s not much love to go around
Can’t you see this is the land of confusion?

Now, this is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make it a place worth fighting for

This is the world we live in
And these are the names we’re given
Stand up and let’s start showing
Just where our lives are going to

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Anthony George Banks / Phillip David Charles Collins / Michael Rutherford

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disasters, modern problems, technology, transportation, travel

Get back on the bus, Russ?

This morning, I read an article in The New York Times indicating that many people have quit using trains and buses in cities around the world. Ridership has gone so low that there’s concern that public transportation systems will fail and there will be many related disasters. One of the biggest worries is that there will be a severe effect on the environment, since more people will be driving their own cars. I expect that with more people opting for private transport, there will also be bigger traffic jams and less available parking. However– I don’t think that consequence will happen unless life gets totally back to normal, if and when the pandemic ever ends.

As I read the article about how cities around the world are grappling with the low numbers of fare paying travelers and governments are having to bail out bus and train systems, I couldn’t help but shake my head in wonder. It seems like it would only be natural that people aren’t wanting to use public transportation right now. Here’s a list of reasons:

  1. Most of us have been instructed NOT to travel unless we must.
  2. Many people are working from home, which eliminates the need to commute (and is probably better for the environment, too). Where I live, most businesses are closed, so why would I go anywhere?
  3. Who wants to ride in close quarters with a bunch of strangers, some of whom aren’t practicing social distancing or wearing proper masks?
  4. Who wants to ride on a bus having a bunch of people watching your every move and giving you the stinkeye if you aren’t wearing a mask the way they think you should?
  5. Isn’t it nicer not having to smell other people’s farts or halitosis? How about vomit, urine, poop, smoke, or booze? Or not being smushed standing up on a bus while some yucky guy cops a feel? That happened to me more than once in Armenia, where the buses would be filled until people were literally almost hanging off of them.

To me, it makes perfect sense that fewer people are taking public transportation. I think there are a lot of reasons why they aren’t using it. Some people, who were once bus or train riders, have opted to buy a car. According to the article, used car sales are up, and so are their prices. But some people are walking or riding bikes instead of using public transportation. Isn’t that a good thing, both for their health and the environment? Riding a bike is pretty low impact in terms of causing air pollution. So is walking.

The article makes it sound like the world will end if people don’t get back on the bus. And, I guess, if everyone suddenly starts driving a car instead of getting back on the bus, there could be serious problems. Mass transit systems are valuable sources of employment; they cost money to maintain, and they provide an efficient way of moving people that eliminates the need for parking spaces or sitting in traffic jams. However, more people than ever are working from home. Quite a few folks find that they like working from home and their employers are discovering that working from home is a viable option. They have lower overhead, the employee can handle minor personal business, and there’s no need for a commute. That means the employee can potentially sleep a little longer in the morning and maybe doesn’t have to spend as much money on work clothes or gas.

I read some of the comments about this article. So many people were writing that they don’t want to ride public transportation because they are concerned about anti-maskers spreading diseases. But there are probably just as many people who find riding on public transportation with militant mask enforcers just as unpleasant. I would rather ride privately in a car to avoid both types of people– the ones who don’t comply with the rules and engage in racist tirades, and the ones who act like mask cops and pay their kids to publicly call out rule breakers.

I have repeatedly stated that I won’t be willingly flying or cruising anywhere until the pandemic is under control, and I don’t have to be forced to wear a mask for hours while sitting in a cramped seat, being surveilled by flight attendants and other passengers after I’ve also been groped by airport security and had my bags searched. That just doesn’t sound pleasant to me, even as I understand why masks are important. I simply don’t want to spend money on that experience. For that reason, we’ll drive if and when we can travel. Mrs. Merkel did decide not to do the “hard” lockdown for Easter, but as it stands right now, most places I would want to go to aren’t taking visitors anyway.

I think, ultimately, the answer to this problem is mass vaccination and changing the way we do things. It sucks, although I do think that some of the changes could turn out to be positive. The article in The New York Times predicts disaster if the public transportation systems fail. But if people stop traveling so much for work and leisure, it seems to me that there could be a positive effect on the climate. If more people are able to work from home instead of clogging up the roads every day at rush hour, that could mean less air and noise pollution and less wear and tear on the road systems. And if people refuse to get with the program and get back on the bus as it is now, then perhaps the systems will evolve so that they are more appealing for riders. Hell… maybe more car manufacturers and municipalities will embrace electric cars instead of gas fed ones. That would be good for the environment and reduce noise pollution somewhat.

One thing I have noticed since we moved to Wiesbaden and live close to two Autobahns is that I can really hear the traffic here– both from the massive roads and the flights coming in to Frankfurt. One thing our homes in BW had over our home here is that it was a lot quieter (at least when the landlady wasn’t yelling at me about something).

I did think this article in The New York Times was interesting reading. If you have access to the NYT, I do recommend reading it for a look at how public transit systems around the world are coping, as people have stopped moving around as much. I think the people working in that industry are going to have to come up with creative and cost effective ways to make the system more attractive to riders. And that will mean they might have to consider why people are opting not to ride the bus or the train and adapt as necessary.

I can state that when I lived in Yerevan, public transportation was not comfortable. Riders were expected to cram in as much as possible, and it was not pleasant or safe. Today, I would imagine those buses that used to be stuffed to the gills with passengers are not so much, thanks to COVID-19. But in the 90s, when there wasn’t a pandemic, I remember having my crotch and my breasts explored by someone’s hands as I was mashed up against a stranger who hadn’t bathed in awhile (due to a lack of running or hot water in those days).

Public transport in Germany, pre-pandemic, was generally not that extreme, but I do remember some really crowded rides on the U-Bahn or city trains in Stuttgart. I remember there not being enough seats and almost falling on my face as the trains moved, because I had to stand in the aisle. Believe me, I have had my fill of public transportation. It’s a necessity for cities to have it available, but honestly, if you can arrange your own transport, why wouldn’t you? At least you have a say in how you will ride without having to deal with other people’s bullshit or bad behavior.

Even flying is less attractive these days. I remember how, about five years ago, a young pilot on Germanwings (now Eurowings) decided to kill himself and everyone else on the plane because he was so depressed. He deliberately crashed the plane and killed 150 people. Given how deadly COVID-19 is as it’s begun to mutate, perhaps the odds are becoming riskier for public transport users. Maybe 150 people on a bus won’t die because of COVID-19 spread, but for those who get the illness, it could mean long term disability and a permanent change of lifestyle.

Incidentally, my comments on not wanting to spend money to ride planes, trains, buses, or cruises don’t mean that I’m an “anti-masker”, either. I do follow the rules. A person can agree with the necessity for wearing masks, yet still hate the goddamned things and do what they can to avoid having to wear them. My need to travel is not so great that I have to get with the program, but I understand that I write from a place of extreme privilege. I know most people don’t have the choices I have. My point is, nowadays, since there is a pandemic, one really does take his or her life in their hands when one uses public transportation. City transportation experts should probably consider that, and act and change accordingly.

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